Ohio’s Great 8: James A. Garfield

James Garfield was the 4th person from Ohio to become President, 20th overall. Born November 19th, 1831, outside of what is now Moreland Hills, Ohio. Although the original cabin has been lost to time, it has been recreated by the city.

Garfield worked through school and college. At school he met and fell in love with fellow student Lucretia Rudolph. He later married her. In college he was hired to teach students in Pownal, Vermont, a position held by Chester A. Arthur. After college Garfield returned to Ohio and taught at his former school.

James A. Garfield began his career in politics in the Ohio State Senate, a position he held until 1861. That year he was given a commission in the 42nd Ohio Infantry. The unit was only on paper and Garfield had to quickly fill it. He fought a few battles during the next few months, but was never seriously hurt. Garfield  advanced to the rank of brigadier general, however the republican party eventually came calling. In the general election of 1862 he won the seat of Representative to the 19th district. He stayed with the army until the Congress finally meet again in December 1863.

James A. Garfield’s time in congress was a busy and eventful one. He saw the country at war, rebuilding from war, and the turmoil that followed. Once such problem that Garfield encountered was The Crédit Mobilier of America scandal. The scandal revolved around the company building the Union Pacific section of the Transcontinental Railroad (Crédit Mobilier of America) and the railroad itself. Credit Mobilier was secretly owned by the railroad officers and some congressmen, which then used congressional money to pay Credit Mobilier for work the railroad had requested.  In the end Garfield was never found guilty of any wrong doing and still went on to further political fame.

During his time in Congress he bought a place in Mentor, Ohio. It was from here he was to launch his presidential campaign. The house now stands as a National Historic Site run by the National Parks Service.  The campaign he ran was the first of the Ohio style of front porch campaign. While Garfield sent his men to campaign across the country for him, which was standard at the time, he sat on his front porch and received visitors. This style of campaign worked well for him. He beat his opponent in the closest popular vote to date, but in the Electoral college he was the hands down winner.

The major issue of Garfield’s presidency was Civil Service Reform. He, as had other presidents before him, felt that too many people were getting government jobs because of the spoils system. This reform would shortly come back to Garfield in a tragic way.

On the morning of July 2 1881, only four months into his term, James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau while waiting to board a train to Massachusetts for summer vacation. Guiteau was angry that he had been turned down for a civil service job. Garfield survived for 80 days after the event. During this time many doctors Garfield 2015rorpoked and prodded him with dirty, unsanitized fingers and instruments. This, more than the bullet itself, led to the death of the president on September 6th, 1881. On September 26th Garfield’s body was laid to rest in Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. A few years later he was interred in one of the greatest presidential tombs yet. Over 180 feet tall and with a 40 mile view of lake Erie.

The presidency of James A. Garfield may have been short but his political career before hand has left him a great legacy. With memorials all over the nation and in front of Capitol Hill, he will forever in both Washington and his home state.


Point of Fact: The cat was not named after the President. It was named after the comic creator’s grandfather, James A Garfield Davis. He was however named after the 20th President.

Photo credit: wikipedia.org


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